Five reasons why you should shop online

There is nothing wrong with saving money — and gas

Opinion
The Chain Reaction Warehouse

While your local bike shop is a great resource, they can’t always compete with the price and selection offered by online retailers with mega-size warehouses.

A few days ago Mtbr posted a story revealing the top five reasons you should shop at your local bike shop. That was based on my personal experience. My local mountain bike shop is amazing. The staff is friendly, attentive, and knowledgeable. They also carry a wide assortment of high end mountain bikes and apparel, including a great selection of women’s products.

But no matter how much I love shopping there and hanging out with the crew, I can’t always justify making purchases there. The problem is price. While I don’t mind paying a little more here and there to support a local business that does so many positive things for our community, I can’t justify (or afford) paying 20-30% more for big ticket items. For those products, I shop online.

While saving money is the main motivator for my web purchases, there’s a number of other great reasons. Here’s my top five:

1. Price

Let’s start with the obvious. While we’d all love to support our local bike shops, we’re not all made of money. When you can get parts for cheaper online than your bike shop can wholesale, why would you pay more? Online prices are often substantially cheaper, and depending on your place of residence, you may not even have to pay sales tax.

Chain Reaction Customer Service

The 82-person customer service team at online retailer Chain Reaction Cycles can help you in seven different languages ( English, French, Spanish, German, Russian, and Portuguese.) Take a tour of Chain Reaction Cycles world headquarters in Northern Ireland.

2. Atmosphere

There are some great bike shops out there that are staffed by knowledgeable and passionate employees. Unfortunately, they’re not all like that. Many shops seem to be filled with know it all dickheads or clueless kids. You wouldn’t go to a restaurant with crappy service, so why waste your money at a lame shop?

3. Convenience

Everyday life pulls us in different directions. Between work, family, and trying to ride, it’s hard to run down to the store. With online shopping, you don’t have to. Internet retailers are open 24/7, so you can shop at your leisure. And, they generally offer free two-day shipping right to your door.

CRC Warehouse

This picture was taken inside one of Chain Reactions two warehouses. All told, they stock around 75,000 skus from 500 different brands.

4. Wider Selection

A bike shop’s inventory is limited by both space and capital. While they’d love to carry a plethora of accessories and components, they need to focus on what sells. Since online outlets don’t have those same overhead constraints, they can stock just about anything you’ll ever need.

Backcountry Review

Not sure if a product is right? User reviews can help with tricky buying decisions.

5. Reviews

Most e-commerce sites have a review section, where you can check ratings and reviews by verified real world users. When you’re buying a product with limited professional reviews, comments from actual riders regarding sizing or quality can help make the decision easier.

Where do you stand? Do you make most of your purchases online or at your local shop?

Photo Thumbnails (click to enlarge)

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  • david peck says:

    I was in a shop today that has the brand of bike that I want to buy next. This is not the closest shop to my home, but it is a very good shop and I am friendly with the owner. I have, in the past spent at least $1000 dollars in this shop, but the bike I’m looking at will be in the $6000 range. I can get the bike from Jensonusa and not be charged sales tax, nearly a $500 savings. I feel guilty even going in there and taking up his time knowing that I will not buy my bike from him. I will continue to shop there for many less expensive parts, handle bars, tires, seats and so on.

    • azdb says:

      If it was only $500 diffence on that bike, I’d buy it there at the shop. I am a total online purchase geek, even toilet paper, but if it is 500 out of 6k and they put it together and give residual tune ups, no question I’d go with shop….

    • Chris says:

      Go into the shop and be honest with him – if you are friendly with him and let him know you can save $500 buying a $6000 bike online my guess is he will be happy to give you $500 off the bike. He probably offers some form a service over the first year or so – as your bike breaks in he will be there to make adjustments and offer help with any questions you have. At least give him a chance to match the price – if he can help you your relationship will be even stronger – if he can’t he will appreciate that you came to him first and gave him a shot!

    • GuyOnMTB says:

      That $500 is a large chunk of change, and it makes sense to want to save what you can. I’m think the same way. However, I’ll take it a step further to try and meet a compromise with myself in order to help local business. Specially if I like the shop!

      I get wheels made at a local shop, I can order parts they don’t have contracts to buy and hand them over to the builder. I generally will buy 75 to 100 percent of wheel materials from them, other than parts cost there is a $52 Labor cost. They make many wheels daily by tenured wheel builders which keeps their cost down. I pay this happily as they will always true wheels for free that they personally build. I take them in every three months and tip a lunch burritos for the builders as they wont take my money. The shop closest to me charges $70, and their builders are experienced, but turn around times are slow.

      I would try to get the shop owner to understand my situation and see if there is a compromise available. I would inquire with the proprietor regarding maintenance/preventative maintenance that could be serviced to the bike after I buy it, for a set number of services or time. Knowing that this ‘service guaranty’ wouldn’t cover broken parts-unless manufacture defective of course-, pretty much just wheel trues, derailleur adjustment, bearing replacement ‘labor’ after a season of abuse. I’d assume that the LBS wouldn’t be able to handle warranty issues with the shock and fork, so those will always take a trip if needing repairs, unless I’m proficient with such components.-I am, but if under warranty, goes to factory-mech…

      I guess what I’m trying to say is; when we buy our bikes from our local non-ridiculous attitude bike retailers and go back for issues many are likely to be willing to true wheels for free, replace bearings-after bearing purchase- and make adjustments on the bike that some of us can’t do, for free, or maybe a substantially discounted cost. The online retailers don’t do these things unless they also have locations in cities, of which a few online retailers do… There is a particular gratitude from shops and shop owners toward customers that have purchased $big-(K)-bikes$, as that purchase help pay the overhead, the employees and the cat food.

  • jjj says:

    Got ripped off by one of the big online. Fox32 instead of a fox36 on my new bike, brakes run USA style instead of UK as requested. they refused to respond at all. So big stuff I’d pay the extra so you have some solid support for that first year.

    Small stuff I go to eBay or do a lot of searching for smaller stores. Crc dont have the prices they used to, equal to store prices mostly, and no huge savings anymore unless the kit is years old.i used to buy a ton of stuff from them (the water damaged boxes from that warehouse flood made for some huuuge savings, loved that), but alas, they sold the store on and all that is gone. Will say bike24 has massive discounts on a few things (110 for a 260rrp set of rare lowa boots, had that lol, but less so on a lot of the bike stuff strangely) some deals but not to that extent that I have seen.

    Its all much the same now, deals harder to find. But good support is priceless

  • Ryan says:

    What David Eades wrote is pretty much spot on. It only gets worse when the ‘customer’ asks for a list of specific part numbers after saying they don’t want to buy the parts. They want you to do all the research, then give them a shopping list to buy online. It helps to actually BE a customer if you want to be treated like one. There are exceptions to this, but it’s getting worse.

  • I'mRight says:

    My LBS, let me itemize:
    1. Hours, one is closed at 12pm on Saturdays.
    2. Inventory, low end bikes or only one brand.
    3. Parts, never in stock always have to order, come back
    next week to pick up.
    4.$12.99 for a tube.
    need I go on?

    • BarshKinaiSki says:

      Mate? Where the hell are you shopping at?

      My LBS, let me itemize:
      1) Hours, 10-6 Tues-Sat for General Public, 24/7 by appointment for Platinum level customers
      2) Inventory, Consistent Full size run of all the stuff that sells in our market XXS to XL
      3) Service, Repair Turnaround same/next day almost always
      4) New Parts, Practical inventory only to keep prices low
      5) Carbon Fiber Repair In-House
      6) Brake Line Rebuilding In-House
      7) Creative Modification Service In-House
      8) $7.00 for a 26×1.95 Shraeder Tube; $8.00 for a 700×23/25 Presta Tube
      9) Weekly rides hosted in Spring, Summer, and most of Fall
      10) We were the startup spark for the 18-mile perimeter trail that now exists in our town; and was responsible for the inital organization and initial funding for it.

      Sounds like you just need a different shop……. :)

      • I'mRight says:

        You’re very lucky to have a shop like that. I have ten shops within an hours drive and I still shop online. One shop is fifteen minutes away and they don’t stock bike over one thousand dollars – “cuz we can’t sell them”. That’s what I have available.

  • peper says:

    I generally buy online and am very specific about model numbers and making sure that I can handle the install or rebuild myself. However lots of good comments here by those who haven’t been so lucky. The local shops will generally make an effort to get close to or match an online deal if you politely ask and aren’t unreasonable about it. Many shops would like to install the purchase and could pick up service work even is the price match on the part might hurt a bit. It’s all about options and brick and mortar shops have to be on point with their staff being pleasant and full of good information and the ability to ask for the business in a way that maximizes their oportunity to sell and service everything.

  • Pedro says:

    Shame on MTBR for writing this article. Congratulations for figuring out that bying stuff online is cheaper and easier, Einstein.

    But bike shops are national treasures and have saved my otherwise-stranded ass a million times. If Chainreaction and Nashbar take out 50% of the bike shops, we’ll all be worse off.

    Patronize your local bike shop. Bring in cookies or beer when you pick up your bike. Add to the tip jar. You don’t have to buy everything at the LBS, but damn it, support our guys in the shops.

    • YYC says:

      “Bring cookies or beer when you pick up your bike.” You are making things worse a lot like feeding the wildlife. Thanks to you the standard cost of getting anything done is a 6-pack PLUS whatever $$$ goods/services would have cost you.

      Im all for doing nice things for people, but you are buying something from a business, not trying to date them… Feel free to show your support by making another purchase if you like how your last one went.

  • Cogzilla says:

    Warranty. If you buy a bike at a shop, in all likelihood that shop will be your advocate with the manufacturer if you have an issue, especially if you maintain good relations with the shop. You may spend $5k on a bike from a manufacturer every few years, but a shop often spends many hundreds of thousands a year with a manufacturer so can have some influence in now your claim gets addressed.

  • keith says:

    Many complain that shops have to charge more blah blah blah.

    1st, its not the shops fault. Much of it is the cost of overhead. I get parts withint a few dollars of online prices all the time here. Why? Because cost of the building, utilities, taxes, and the list goes on are far less than what they are in a big city. Only way an LBS can survive is to charge more.

    Then you add in the BS game that distributors play, which they charge a shop more for parts because of QTY, well LBS cant buy a higher quality when distributors and manufacturers only cater to the big sellers that have massive warehouses (isnt that the point of a distributor or begin with)

    Some distributors are not being such asshats anymore but many are still. Their slowly coming to realize they are doing nothing but screwing themselves because their is really no reason to charge an LBS 20-30% more.

    Then You add articles like this and everyone being so concerned about saving $5 (the whole reason quality is going to shit) and wonder why so many LBS are the way they are.

    When you can afford a $6k bike there is no damn excuse to have to buy online. SERIOUSLY this is so sad. Cyclists are the worst when it comes to being cheap asses (while having nice big houses and SUVs etc).

  • eb1888 says:

    My shop matches internet. They order it. I avoid shipping minimums but pay tax.

  • BarshKinaiSki says:

    @David Peck- If you can afford $6k for a bike, you can afford to let the LBS that has served you so well to make his money. Manufacturers don’t allow LBS’s to have much of a margin to begin with; so by saying, “I can get it $500 cheaper by going somewhere else” to him/her, you’re essentially saying, “I don’t think you’ve earned the money you’ll get selling me this bike, but I deserve the service I’m going to force you to give me.”
    Stop being an asshat and buy from your LBS; you’ll thank yourself someday.

  • butch says:

    All the US online bike shops are a regular “LBS” the only one that was online only was PricePoint. Jenson is just as much a LBS as any other LBS, they have a retail floor, they have sales people, they have the same bills, they just know how to make use of the internet. If LBS’s are having problems with Shimano and SRAM they need to take it up with them, it is not the customer’s fault LBS’s dont know how to negotiate for fair prices.

  • JNS says:

    Not sure why we are obligated to support LBS. How about this idea, stop retail sales all together if you can’t compete and just do service? The LBS’s around here do TONS of service. They normally tell you they can’t fit you in cause they are so busy. Why can’t this be there money maker??? What’s this bring beer and cookies discussion? I’m paying you for a service, why do I have to jack you off in appreciation in addition to paying? When I go get an oil change in my car, I don’t bring the mechanic beer and cookies. FFS.

  • Sean says:

    BREAKING NEWS! Online retailers undercut local bike shops on price and product range! Exclusive at 11!

  • Gerry says:

    Why is it such a big deal if you buy your bike from the shop? What if you buy a used bike, will they treat you like sh!t whenever you bring it in? I always buy used bikes but bring them in to service and have a great relationship with my shop. I so most of my minor repairs and maintenance but bring it in if it’s over my head or for a major tune once a year or so. If they only want to treat you well because you buy from them, they suck.

  • Marc says:

    You should feel guilty. There’s nothing cool about ‘show rooming’ – taking up the shop’s time and pawing the inventory and then buying elsewhere.

    Same with the sales tax. Don’t punish your neighbor (the shop) because you don’t want to pay your share. Technically you should be claiming that stuff on your return anyways. If you got audited, you’d get dinged.

  • Chris says:

    I walked into my LBS with a list of items I’d like to see on my new mountain bike. Instead the guy rolled out a leftover year old model that he was trying to get off of the floor without anything I requested and insisted it was better & what I wanted was garbage that he’d never give his enemies. That sealed the deal for me, my last bike came from the FedEx man. When it came time to get the wife a new road bike I just went straight online.

  • Tom says:

    I always use my LBS, I have two that I love and trust and split my money between them. They can get any part or bike I want usually within the same timeframe that an internet order could. They repair my bike as fast as they can, and stand behind their installs, and repairs. I go to my LBS sometimes just to chat, talk to other riders and enjoy the MTB atmosphere.
    I know I pay slightly more, but they live in my area. They shovel the same snow I do. They pay the same outrageous taxes I do, the same insane gas prices, the same massive electricity bills I do. They are my neighbors, and it’s really hard to run a business in NY.
    Go Bike Junkie in Bethpage!
    Go Peak Bikes in Queens!

  • LBS OWNER says:

    Have a big ride tomorrow?
    Broke a spoke?
    Need a quick-link?
    Need cassette removed?
    Shit, tore a sidewall and have a race this weekend.
    All the little things you need instantly….if you do not support your local bike shop, they wont be there for that part, for that shifter cable.
    Then when the shop is no longer there, you will say….” I LOVED THAT SHOP” but you didn’t buy shit from them. Just the little things.
    Good shops will always try and help, they will try and match prices, or maybe do a free install on the part. Understand that many prices are well below MSRP and below market price. But things that are not….please buy from your local shop. Unless of course they are dicks. But if they are…..NEVER USE THEM….I MEAN NEVER!!!!!

  • Mike B says:

    I don’t really think you can judge many people on if they buy from a LBS or Online. There are so many factors involved.

    Do they live near a good shop?
    Are the hours of the shop compatible with the customers schedule?
    Do they need something unusual? (weird tool, etc).

    Personally I try to buy from my LBS whenever possible. I bought my bike from them, but I could totally see buying one online in the future (I don’t need the free tunes). I try to buy consumables from them, but frequently they don’t have what I want…if they do, I get it from them, even if it costs a little more. Sometimes I don’t have time to get to the shop (closest shop is 20 miles from me). Amazon Prime has saved my ass in the past when I had a weekend ride planned and I had to work the rest of the week.

    My local shop is currently adding a coffee shop/bar in their main location. Shops need to evolve. I’m glad my local shop is and I hope the upgrade will keep them in business for years to come. To believe everyone should ONLY buy from a LBS is nuts. It’s the 21st Century. Eventually I believe most retail will be a thing of the past. Specialty shops that can provide that extra special service *might* survive. Shops that are stuck in the 20th Century will fail.

  • Frank says:

    There are several aspects to buying online vs at an LBS.

    First off when buying a bike it isn’t much different than buying a car, you’ll go to several lots and “waste” the time of the car salespeople only to buy a car from another dealer, buying a bike is similar, you have to “waste” the time of the salespeople to find the right bike. Salespeople actually understand this, and for every person they “waste” their time with they’re that much closer to a sale.

    However if I go into a LBS to inquire about an accessory and pick their brain only to leave and buy the identical product online for less is cheating the salesperson and the LBS out of sale, I could never do that nor have I ever done that, it’s just rude.

    However most of the time I know what I need, so I usually buy online because even with shipping (which sometimes is free) and now with taxes being imposed, I still can save at least 30% to as much as 65% buying online vs the same thing at an LBS. Of course some products are so low priced it doesn’t matter, and in some cases I need the product asap so into the LBS I’ll go.

    In addition to that I’ve have received far better customer service from online stores than I have at most LBS’s, this includes after the sale returns and warranty issues; I’ve even received great advice before the sale from online phone staffers when I needed it.

    So in my 40 years plus of being in the bike world overall my best experiences have been from online stores.

    Even with all the online purchases going on LBS’s are still not hurting like some want you to believe, just read the National Bicycle Dealers Association on the internet and read the money figures and you’ll discover that LBS’s control a commanding 49% of the dollars in the industry compared to just 8% for chain stores and specialty outdoor retailers, and a paltry 3% from internet sales!! So when I hear people cry about LBS’s losing business just simply is not true. LBS’s that go out of business is due to the shop not meeting the needs of the consumer, poor customer service, and poor business management and not due to online sales.

  • Peter says:

    Buying online is a great way to save money if you know exactly what you are looking for. However, last time I checked you can’t buy Service online. I own a shop in So. AZ and I encourage my clients to buy the part they seek online and then bring it to me and I’ll install it.This keeps my inventory costs down. My labor rates are comparable to other stores and I have the knowledge to back it all up. I see it as a WIN WIN situation for all parties involved.

  • Tom says:

    As so many examples here attest, the bike industry doesn’t want to provide customer service, they want to sell you something. (Exceptions are noted.) The constant product development of new industry standards ultimately results in planned obsolescence for bike products while they are sitting on a sales floor. Try to buy a 9 speed cassette in the size you need at your neighborhood shop, or investigate your part options for the unique frame specifications on your ride. Each of the 3 bikes I have purchased in the last 5 years is considered out of date already.

    If I’m going to throw down cash for product that the industry will, if it hasn’t already, stopped supporting, I’m going to spend as little as possible so I can ensure I get my money’s worth.

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